By Teresa Varley
Around 20 former Steelers players who were part of the team in the 1980s and 90s gathered in Pittsburgh for the first-annual alumni weekend.
The players shared laughs, a few tears and plenty of stories about their playing days. They snapped pictures, signed autographs and just had a good time.
"It is fun," said linebacker Bryan Hinkle. "It's fun to see what guys are doing now, catch up on things and share stories. It's definitely enjoyable."
The weekend started off on the golf course on Saturday where the competitive side of the players came out. On Sunday night the players attended Taste of the Steelers at Heinz Field, a dinner and auction that benefits The Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and The Cancer Caring Center.
"It was neat," said wide receiver Yancey Thigpen, who made his first trip to Heinz Field. "You know the type of respect you had for guys who came back when you were playing and the history of the organization. Now that we are considered part of that history it's good to be involved with it. It's good to pass the torch on. You have to when you realize you can't go on anymore."
Myron Bell, who last played for the team in 2001, remembers seeing some of the former players come back as well during his years in the black and gold and enjoyed taking on that role.
"I used to look at the guys when they came back and I was playing and thinking those are the old guys," said Bell. "I am one of them now. It's fun to go through the changes and see what it's all about. I wish could show some of these players now what it's going to be like for them. I want to tell them to enjoy every moment of it because it's not going to last forever."
Monday began with a tour of the team's practice facility at the UPMC Sports Performance Complex and ended at Heinz Field, where they were introduced before the game and then watched the Steelers defeat the Ravens.
"Monday Night football in Pittsburgh is something to see," said wide receiver Weegie Thompson. "I read the other day something about the Dallas Cowboys being America's team again. We really were and still are America's team. There are always fans there supporting us wherever we are."
While many of the players joked, including Thigpen who was ready to make the switch to linebacker, none of them tried to take the field and relive their playing days.
"Listening to these guys here, if any of them could have suited up they would," said Thigpen. "It's the passion they have for this organization."
All of the players who took part in the weekend appreciated the fact that the Steelers organization embraces them and keeps them a part of the family.
"I couldn't even tell Dan or Art Rooney how appreciative I am that they do stuff like this," said Hinkle. "They really keep us involved. It's nice to stay in touch with the old players. They bring us in here and take care of us. It shows the class the team has."
Cornerback Delton Hall, who moved back to the Pittsburgh area in recent years, was moved by his first opportunity to be a part of the alumni family.
"I told all of the guys something I never said, that I love them and nothing can replace them," said Hall. "This whole weekend was totally off the charts."